Saturday, July 21, 2012

Let's Actually Pray During Prayer Time

Note to all future mid-week bible study/home group fellow attendees, whoever you are at whatever church you are:  I'd like to encourage us all to actually pray during prayer time.  Okay?  I'm not exempting myself here, I'm just making observations.

It is strange, but there seems to be a rigid blueprint for mid-week evening church gatherings.  It doesn't matter what church, denomination, or belief system.  Or at least the ones I've been associated with.

First, there's "fellowship time."  You know, that 15-30 minute period where we have cookies and punch and chat that also serves as a buffer to allow fashionable lateness.  Then there's the "teaching time," or similar.  That's when we look at the bible, or teaching, or whatever book written on whatever topic by whatever author, and discuss or answer questions

Then, last - and actually least! - is "prayer time."  You know.  It's that last 15-20 minute period before the scheduled end time of the mid-week group.  You know?  The time where the first 10 minutes minimum of it is spent wrapping up "teaching time?"  Yes, you know.  Then, out of the 10 minutes remaining in "prayer time," 15-20 minutes of that 10 minutes is spent listing our prayer requests in detail.

Then, once we go 10 minutes past the end of the mid-week group and people start gathering up their bibles and other belongings and the kids are fidgeting, the leader of the group states that we are out of time and throws up a blanket prayer like, "Lord bless everybody. Amen"  and we never actually pray. You know?  You know.

5 comments:

  1. Heather Munn7/24/12, 11:57 AM

    From my experience with Christian gatherings where prayer time shakes out like what you've described, setting it up in a different format actually really helps.

    I think the prayer requests are part of the problem. Like you said, they're long. They're one after the other, and pretty soon you're sitting there hoping other people will do the praying because you want to pray for Lisa's niece with cancer but you can't remember if it was Amy or Mary and getting it wrong would be totally offensive and you've worked so hard on trying to remember that that you have absolutely no idea what anyone else asked prayer for.

    The two formats I've seen used to much better result:
    - as soon as someone gives a request, a volunteer is asked for to pray about it right then. In a more formal setting, a cool thing is to have the person finish with "Lord, hear our prayer" which everybody says along with them
    - nobody gives requests at all, there's no "talking about praying", just praying. "Time to pray" and all of us pray for our own requests while the rest join in silent agreement and follow with "Amen." It actually makes a lot more sense, since I am the one who cares most about, say, my husband's health, and so best suited to pray for him. I guess it could seem individualistic, but only on the surface.

    If you're ever in a position to lead a prayer meeting, I highly recommend one or the other method.

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    1. Perfect. Thank you, Heather. I now remember your ideas tried a couple of times over the years, but they were never repeated the scientifically proven 21 days in a row to form a habit.

      Are you a writer? I like your run-on sentence to describe my thought process during prayer time of trying to remember everything.

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    2. Heather Munn7/25/12, 11:45 AM

      It's interesting you ask that, because actually yes, I write fiction.

      Glad you like the ideas. I've been part of a small church where worship-leading rotates so we got to experiment a bit. Another thing I like about these methods is you don't have the thing where someone's prayer request gets forgotten, or else the leader has to write them all down just to make sure that doesn't happen (and ends up praying for half of them himself at the end.)

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  2. Is there any benefit to praying in groups? It seems more a solo thing.

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  3. As noted, requests take forever and often turn into a social-time in disguise. I've found that more people feel the same way as you, Steve, than the other way around. A couple ideas from our group that worked well:

    1. Don't plan a big prayer time on a weekly basis (gasp!). Teach and discuss on some weeks, and then have a more dedicated prayer night maybe once a month or so.

    2. Send prayer requests by group email to each other throughout the week. It motivates folks to actually pray for each other more often. As a bonus, the requests don't need to be detailed in person when you get together to pray.

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